Shattered dreams, early marriage, with a special child are among the reasons why Aiza (not her real name) truly regretted joining the communist terrorist group as a teen over a decade ago.
She considers the four grueling years she spent with the New People’s Army (NPA) as the darkest chapter of her life when she experienced hunger and sleepless nights while clinging to the promises of rebel leaders of a better life, according to Aiza in an interview on Tuesday.
Growing up poor, fatherless, and a victim of rape attempt, she was easily lured by the NPA in Sta. Rita, Samar to go to the mountains and join the fight against the government.
“Since I was a young recruit, I spent most of my time reading their own version of Philippine history book, help collect food supplies, and carry our provisions,” Aiza recalled.
At 16, she got pregnant by Lito (not his real name), a rebel fighter 17 years her senior. The ordeal of living in the mountains and heavy with a child gave her and her common-law husband the courage to ask permission from their leaders to leave the organization in 2007.
The family is now settled in a rice farming community in this town, regularly receiving farm inputs and other livelihood assistance from the national government.
Now at 33, the mother’s dark past still persists as she takes care of her 13-year-old daughter suffering from slow physical, social, intellectual, and emotional development.
“My child would not grow abnormal had I not gave in to the persuasions of NPAs. When I was pregnant, I’ve gone through a lot of tiring and stressful days as we walked for hours, suffer hunger, carry heavy supplies, no pre-natal checkups, and lack of sleep,” Aiza told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Joining the NPA also deprived her of the opportunity to continue her studies to fulfill her dream to become a public school teacher. “My plea to the youth is to never entertain the idea of joining the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA. Instead of wasting your time and efforts with them, you have to study hard and help your family,” she added.
The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Since 2016, the central government and local government units have intensified the fight against NPA by forming task forces to end local communist armed conflict.
The formation of the task force operationalizes Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018.
The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace. (PNA)